Customs the Gulf Islands

US and Canadian Customs

Monday, May 28, 2012S.V. CAMBRIA

Friday Habor, San Juan Island.

The difference between US and Canadian customs is like night and day.  And if that’s the best our tax dollars can buy, I want my money back. 

We left West Sound late in the morning and motored down to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island to check out of the country.  It’s a long story, one that doesn’t bear repeating in detail.  But, because the boat is registered in the UK, we have to check in and out of the US while most people just check in, so we get twice the exposure to custom agents – lucky us! 

No matter what, we always seem to do something wrong during the process and have to stand around quietly pretending to care while the agent on duty takes great pleasure in pointing out our mistake.  This time we “forgot” to call the custom’s office to state our business upon arrival.  We always have to go up to the office to fill out the paper work and pay a $19 processing fee so, for one reason or another, we skipped a step and just went … with four bags of trash in hand.  There’s a camera on the dock, and they saw us come in, tie up and leave with the bags.  Before we could reach the rubbish bins at the end of the public dock, we were met by an officer who didn’t look very happy.

David said good day, or something to that effect, which was met with a “it was until you showed up” and a rant about seeing people arrive on a boat, tie up and leave with bags without calling in all the while insinuating there could be something dangerous in the bags … yeah, dirty Kleenex.  When he asked what we were doing, we replied that we were checking OUT of the US.  OUT?  Yes.  Out.  And then I thanked him for his warm welcome.  I couldn’t resist.  I’m sick and tired of being treated like a criminal in my own country.  Sure.  I have a vice or two that may raise an eyebrow but, for the most part, I’m a law-abiding citizen (I can’t speak for David … or Sally) and resent being treated otherwise (until proven guilty by a jury of my peers).  Besides, what kind of terrorist (or whoever he thought we were) would tie up to a custom’s dock with a video camera to off load bags full of explosives disguised as rubbish in order to attack Friday Harbor (because Seattle is way too obvious) when there are plenty of other places to berth without video surveillance.  Is this the kind of training they receive?  If so, I really do want my money back. 

He softened his position quickly and later explained that we really should have phoned in even though we’re always told to come to the office.  We agreed.  But the guy was clearly amped up and ready for action when a more appropriate reaction would have been to ask us (in a very friendly and calm way) if he could help us.  If part of your job is to carry a firearm, you should be able to keep your cool under stress or, as in this case, no stress at all.  It’s Friday Harbor for Christ’s sake.  Not Baghdad. 

On the other side of the border, we were met with a much different welcome:  “Thank you, Mr. Gardiner.”  “Welcome back to Canada.”  “I remember you from last year.”  “How long would you like to stay with us?”  “You can leave your boat here longer if you say you’re having work done.  It’s good for our economy, you know.”  “Would you like a LaBatts and some moose chili, eh?”  Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.

David’s always said his stress level goes down fifty points after we clear into Canada.  I had thought he meant because of the slight hassle involved in dealing with customs.  But, as it turns out, it’s because we’re leaving all of the craziness behind us and, let’s be honest, 2012 has been nothing short of ridiculous with the upcoming election. 

We’ve only been here a few hours, but I can already see the difference in him.  And I have to say, it’s nice to have my husband back … I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed him.

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